Warning: If Your Dog is Out of Date on Rabies, You Need to Know This

Can Your Dog Be Killed for Biting Someone?

Your terrier mix Sheba is having a very bad day. She just bit the boy who was all up in her face. His fingers bleeding, he’s shrieking in pain and fear in his mom’s arms. It dawns on you that Sheba is out of date on her rabies vaccination by about two years.

Suddenly, all the justification of why she bit this obnoxious kid fades. The cold realization slaps you wide awake to a much scarier scenario: animal control will be involved as well as this boy’s doctor. The question on everyone’s lips will be, “Is she up to date on her rabies shots?”

You swallow hard, and the boy’s screams recede as your ultimate fear begins wailing like a siren:

Will they euthanize Sheba and cut off her head to check for rabies???

“Oh God Oh God Oh God!

Where are those rabies papers? What are my chances of pulling this mess out of the fire? Was I a complete fool for following those voices that said she’d be immune for life from her early rabies shot? Who was that again? Dr. Falconer, and who else?

Immunologists, is that who he said? Wasn’t Dogs Naturally Magazine saying “Once and done” is the healthiest way to go for vaccinations? Was that for rabies, too, or just the other vaccinations? Think, damn it, think!”

Long before panic like this sets in, it’s a good idea to have your rabies ducks in a row. Understanding what you’re up against goes a long way towards helping you think clearly. At the time of a dog bite, it’ll be much harder if you’re unprepared.

When Fear Rules Rabies Decisions, Everyone Loses

I saw Sam this week, the two year old German Shepherd who has serious trust issues in his world. Sam’s mom came in to discuss what had been drilled in to her forcefully by two local fauxlistic vets:

Sam only had one rabies vaccine, and even though he got it after he was 6 months old, he needs another ASAP! He’s not legal, and if he bites someone, he’ll be put to death and lose his head for rabies testing.

This fear, instilled by two supposed authorities, prompted a visit with Sam in my clinic. He was a dog who had to be constantly monitored, kept on a short leash with a shock collar to be used if he started getting crazy.

If Sam went too far into wild and crazy land, it became very difficult to bring him back to calm and centered.

He’s highly suspicious of people, barks loudly, lunges and attacks waves in the lake, goes crazy with moving cars, lunging as if to attack them, and gets easily aroused to an excited, squealing state. Sam saw me repeatedly as a pup for a chronic loose stool and a flaky appetite.

If these sound like rabies symptoms to you, well, we’re on the same page.

Animals who have rabies are often highly suspicious and greatly aggravated by water, especially moving water (hence the other name for rabies: hydrophobia). Some will transfer that moving water fear or aggression to things that move or even even shine, like mirrors. In Sam’s case, skateboards and moving cars were close enough to set him into crazy aggressive lunging.

Roxanne learned from a Shutzhund expert to “correct” him (with a shock collar) early on if he was going to the crazy place, or he’d become dangerous and out of control quickly.

You might imagine my concern about this dog getting more rabies influence with another round of rabies vaccination!

Time to Be Smarter Than Your Vet. Again.

The most important question in our visit revolved around this critical question:

Would Sam be put to sleep if he bit someone and was out of date on his rabies vaccination?

That was the message from two different vets in town, and it was stated strongly and authoritatively.

Never mind that Dr. WhiteCoat gets this wrong regularly, and pushes rabies vaccines like he’s somehow been deputized by the state (which he clearly has NOT been), even the “fauxlistic” vets get this wrong.

You know, the ones who are supposed to be thinking outside the box, looking at the bigger picture.

It’s as if rabies is affecting everyone’s clear thinking, much as it clouds that of the rabid animal, causes him to “lose his mind” and bite unthinkingly.

This is yet another situation where you’ve got to do your research and be more knowledgeable than your vet. And smarter than animal control, who’s likely to be more determined to follow the rules without understanding the big picture.

What are the actual rules, and who makes these big, ultimate decisions of life and death for your animal who’s bitten a person?

Call in The Authorities. No, The Real Authorities.

To answer this, we need look to the National Association of State Public Health Veterinarians, NASPHV. They publish the Compendium of Animal Rabies Prevention and Control.

That’s the go-to reference for veterinarians, public health officials, vaccine manufacturers, and hopefully, animal control agencies. The report, updated periodically (last in 2016) makes recommendations on rabies vaccination, management of animals exposed to rabies, and management of animals that bite humans. It’s often published by the CDC (Centers for Disease Control, Atlanta, USA).

Here’s a quote, taken right from this document, under the pertinent section you can find yourself, titled Part I, B, 6: Management of Animals that Bite Humans.

Regardless of rabies vaccination status, a healthy dog, cat, or ferret that potentially exposes a person through a bite should be confined and observed daily for 10 days from the time of the exposure.”

That’s exactly what happened to my patient Buddy, a couple years back. A story for another time.

How to Use This Information to Protect Your Animal

You well know, if you’ve been following along, that immunologically speaking, your rabies vaccinated animal is highly likely to be immune for life. The closest thing we have to measuring this at present is data from the Rabies Challenge Fund, which proved at least 5 years duration of immunity from two rabies vaccinations. Veterinary immunologist Ron Schultz, Ph.D. has data generated earlier showing antibodies to rabies persisting for 7 years.

I’ve often stated the importance of keeping good records to prove your animal is rabies vaccinated, even if that vaccination is considered “out of date” by official types. The difference between “out of date” and “unvaccinated” for rabies is vast. Here’s what the Compendium states from the same paragraph referenced above:

Any stray or unwanted dog, cat, or ferret that potentially exposes a person to rabies may be euthanized immediately and the head submitted for rabies examination.”

While I don’t see the words “unvaccinated” in this section, I think it may be safe to assume you’ll not have much shelter from the law if your unvaccinated animal bites a person. I’d be happy to be proved wrong on this, so let us know in the comments if you’ve had an unvaccinated animal who bit someone and was spared death by being quarantined for 10 days.

Here’s what I’d do to keep your chances high of not losing your best friend in a dog bite scenario:

  1. Keep a copy of your rabies vaccination certificate with you, even if it’s “out of date.” That lands your dog in the vaccinated vs unvaccinated group, a desirable status should a bite occur.
  2. If your dog is a known aggressor, or has a cranky side, keep him in close control at all times in public. This is cheap dog bite prevention that costs only vigilance and a good leash on your part. A muzzle perhaps, if bites just come too easily.
  3. If your dog is “out of date” by a few years, it could be worth investing in a rabies titer test. While not necessarily recognized by all governing bodies, if there’s a positive number (over 0.1 = “protective” to the CDC), you’ve got more proof to offer that rabies is highly unlikely to be the cause of the bite.
  4. Roxanne gets the credit for this one: Print out and keep a copy of the Compendium with you, along with your rabies vaccination certificate and titer results. Don’t be surprised if you’re the only one in the room who knows this stuff! But knowing it and being able to produce a document from CDC are two different things. Keeping a cool head and confidently providing documents like this will get you far.

Alright, Let’s Roll. And Let’s Be Careful Out There.

That sage advice, given daily by sergeant Phil Esterhaus of Hill St. Blues, is useful when you’re daring to question authority for the good health of your animal.

Which I think you need to do these days. Let’s face it, there’s a whole lot of advice, admonishments, and recommendations coming at you in the name of “prevention” that can cause ill health.

We in homeopathic veterinary practice see those outcomes daily.

True prevention means thinking outside the box and taking responsibility for your animal yourself.

Let us know in the comments if you’ve ever been involved in a bite situation and what you learned from it.

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  1. Debbie W on August 16, 2023 at 3:30 pm

    I took the short rabies course and feel I have a good understanding. I do want my dogs to have a vaccination however, I see the first one is before a year old, then the booster one year later is recommended but the class said boosters don’t work. Why is a second one recommended for those that choose to vaccinate against rabies? Also, if he had the first shot at 10 months and he’s now going on 3, did I miss some specific window? I just need clarification on the second shot “booster”. Thank you.

    • Will Falconer, DVM on August 17, 2023 at 1:47 am

      I can see why that was confusing. Generally, with any killed virus vaccine, one isn’t enough to establish immunity, so a second is typically given (the “booster”) a month or a few months later, often at the one year birthday. Then, a titer is taken to be sure there’s immunity, and if there is, more vaccinations don’t “boost,” due to the immunity that’s present and established. That immunity “sees” the vaccine virus and negates it, so it doesn’t get a chance to elicit a booster effect.

      2+ years later? Probably a bit long, but if immunity is your goal, I’d do it and follow with a titer test in 3-4 weeks. That’ll tell you if you’ve gotten solid immunity or not.

  2. Patrick on January 24, 2023 at 2:24 pm

    The annotated compendium is a good starting point, but I really think people need to do their own research and find out what is actually on the books where they live. Here in Pennsylvania, rabies vaccination/exposure is regulated by both the Health Department and the Department of Agriculture. For bites involving humans, you’ll deal with the Health Department, who says that all dogs are subject to a 10 day quarantine, regardless of vaccination status (Title 28 § 27.162). If your dog bites a dog, you’ll deal with the Ag department. PA does have a rabies vaccination law (7 PA Code Chapter 16, subchapter C.), but it is out of date in that it has not been updated to include the exemption provisions passed in 2012 (those are contained in the Rabies Prevention and Control in Domestic Animals and Wildlife Act (3 P.S. § 455.8 )). State law includes post exposure provisions (Chapter 16, subchapter B), however, they are suspended and superseded by a general quarantine order (48 Pa.B. 6930; 10/6/18). The quarantine order basically says that if a dog is overdue for a vaccination (this includes dogs with a written exemption), it is 100% up to the Bureau of Dog Law enforcement if your dog will be subjected to a 120 day quarantine or a 45 day home observation period. A fact sheet issued by PDA titled “Understanding Rabies Quarantines for Veterinary Clinics” specifically says: “When the Compendium and the Commonwealth Laws, GQO or regulations do not agree, the Laws, GQO and regulations supersede the Rabies Compendium.”. Basically, the quarantine order rules and to heck with the compendium. Colorable law at its greatest. I suspect that this sort of scheme is pulled elsewhere.

    • Will Falconer, DVM on January 28, 2023 at 8:52 pm

      Wow, Patrick, that’s worse than I knew. My experience has mostly been with Animal Control, who seem largely ignorant of the Compendium and can put their thumb on someone who’s not got the confidence or knowledge to fight back for their rights.

      I have to say, though, I do love the department name, “Bureau of Dog Law Enforcement!
      That’s a first. Go, Pennsylvania!

      • Patrick on February 4, 2023 at 5:47 am

        Welcome to the People’s Republic of Pennsylvania! “Dog Law Enforcement Officers” do door-to-door checks for registration and rabies vax certificates, btw.

        • Will Falconer, DVM on February 4, 2023 at 9:12 pm

          I’m guessing that’s only in larger cities with the budgets that allow it. But you’re vying with California now, to have the most repressive, heavy handed government breathing down your necks.

  3. Susan on January 4, 2023 at 11:56 am

    My pet GSD bit my vet yesterday and his annual vaccination is outdated by 1 month so, what should i do now ? Seeking for your help please guide me asap . Will they sue us?

    • Will Falconer, DVM on January 9, 2023 at 6:11 am

      As I explained on this page, there are two very separate considerations here: damage to the person bitten and rabies vaccine status. Keep calm, read those two in the article, and see what comes your way. BTW: you do know that your dog being “out of date” by a month doesn’t mean he’s rabid, right? Crazy as that sounds, I get questions like that more than I think would be the case.

  4. Harsh on December 10, 2022 at 8:56 am

    My pet GSD bit me today evening and his annual vaccination is outdated so, what should i do now ? Seeking for your help please guide me asap .

    • Will Falconer, DVM on December 10, 2022 at 11:24 pm

      Get the wounds treated by your health practitioner. Nothing complicated here. Dog bites happen all the time.

  5. Cora on June 4, 2021 at 2:13 pm

    Hi. Our Husky has had one rabies vaccine at 5 months and is due for second exactly one year later, however, vet doesn’t want to vaccinate again due to seizures, which are now under control for 2 months by using 15 mg of Phenobarbital, and he’s been weaned off of that almost at this point . Giving him zinc and using herbs and homeopathy to stave off their return. My concern is…he didn’t have the second dose, which was done in vaxxed dogs in the Dodd study. Is the first dose only a primer and that second dose after one year is what ‘cements’ or somehow completes initial dose and confers immunity (I’ve read u recommend doing two doses in one of ur comments). If I delay the shot another 6 months (just to get him hopefully stronger/seizure free for longer period) will he forever be considered ‘out of date’ moving forward by authorities (If an event happens) even if we follow the guidelines afterward? Vet took titers, no results yet and will give exemption (IL) if they come back ‘satisfactory’. Thanks, in advance 🙂

    • Will Falconer, DVM on June 4, 2021 at 9:49 pm

      It’s very much weighing risk vs reward in every decision around rabies. Is he in contact with wildlife species that can become rabid? If not (lives in city, your yearly rabies incidence is very low [CDC will tell you], and he’s not free roaming, I’d judge the risk of the vaccine to be far greater than the benefit.

      Anyone who’s had seizures as a result of vaccination is at a great risk to do so again.

      • Jill on November 3, 2023 at 8:37 pm

        Hi! I’m so grateful to have found you. I have a cat and she was given to me by someone who rescued her from a shelter. He said she had her shots, was spayed and has a chip. I got her at 4 years old, she is 13 now and healthy. She is strictly indoors and I don’t want to give her any more shots. I do want to take her with me when I travel to Mexico and back to the US. Seems that she will need proof of vax to re-enter the states. Do I have any options? I don’t have any paperwork on her from her time at the shelter. The person I got her from did not keep anything. Also, I know the post is about dog bites, my apologies for asking here. I’ve been looking for info to no avail

        • Will Falconer, DVM on November 7, 2023 at 11:58 pm

          Traveling internationally is inherently out of your control for vaccines and other requirements. No way (bribery?) around it, either for entry to the foreign country or re-entry into the US. Best bet: a pet sitter rather than this kind of travel, especially for a senior animal.

  6. Clarisse on December 18, 2019 at 9:08 pm

    My dog bit someone in my property, she has been vaccinated for rabies, but outdated. The person who got bit needs to report to the health department. Don’t know what to do. My dog did’t bite out of aggression but out of excitement and never bitten anyone before. Should I just sit and wait for the health department to show up or should I take action and take the dog to the vet and get a rabies titer and updated rabies shot?

    • Will Falconer, DVM on December 23, 2019 at 3:51 am

      I’m seeing this rather late, Clarisse, my apologies. If you haven’t heard from the health department yet, I’d do nothing. Odds are, the bitee realized she wasn’t bitten by a rabid dog and saw no need to report it. Or, by now you’ve been paid a visit and you’re pretty much in their sphere of influence now, so best to let them guide you. Quarantine at home is likely the recommendation.

  7. Eve on January 12, 2019 at 11:53 am

    Hi! I have a problem on my hands, my 1 yr and 5 month old dog and I were playing with a toy and he accidentally bit my hand when he bit onto the toy. It was a good hard bite and it broke the skin but I don’t think I would have gone to the doctor if I hadn’t just found out I was pregnant. I looked at an email from his vet clinic a few days earlier that reminded me that his rabies vaccine booster was due a month ago. I went to the doctor (because pregnant and worried that i needed a tetanus shot which I got) and they had to file with animal control. I lied to animal control and said that it was a dog I met while out walking b/c I didn’t want it on my dogs record. He’s now saying that I have to go get all of these anti-rabies shots and I’m worried that will be terrible for my baby, curious of the odds that my dog has rabies with it being 1 mo. “expired” . Should I play it safe and just go get the shots? Thanks for any help -Worried

  8. Debbie King on September 12, 2018 at 7:19 pm

    I’m so scared. My male Catahoula got away from my 18 yo daughter who was walking him and he bit another dog who got very hurt and is at the vet right now. I hope the little dog makes it. :…(

    My dogs last rabies shot was 17 months ago. He was vaccinated at the humane society in Sept 2016 where I adopted him from. I didn’t realize he was vaccinated by them and he got vaccinated when I adopted him in Nov 2016 at the appointment to get his heartworm meds. Then in April 2017 I took him to another vet who vaccinated him again when I took him in because I didn’t have his original record from Nov and the very said it’s best to have a copy of the record just in case.

    I found the folder with all his 2016 records last year.

    I’m just really scared they’ll try to kill my dog.

    • Will Falconer, DVM on September 13, 2018 at 5:52 am

      It’ll be good to know you have the right to refuse euthanasia and choose 10 day quarantine. You can read my highlighted version of the Rabies Compendium when you visit the Vital Animal Pack area (sign up for free, if you haven’t already, and you can download and print this out): https://my.vitalanimal.com/p/vital-animal-pack

  9. Sally on April 14, 2018 at 8:02 pm

    I adopted a stray cat who was living outside with her 4 kittens in a shed. Apparently Montreal has a huge stray/feral cat problem. A volunteer from a cat rescue helped me trap her and took her to the SPCA and she was spayed, given core vaccinations and de wormed. I took the cat to a vet for her booster shots about a month ago and yesterday I brought her in for a Rabies vaccination. When I got home I read the paperwork and the label from the vial they stick on the certificate said the vaccine expired 3 weeks ago! I was very annoyed that the Vet didn’t verify what she was injecting my cat with, I had words for her and she offered to re vaccinate my cat for free, I declined and said I will take a refund instead! I am not sure what to do. I do know I need to find a new vet because I don’t trust this one.

    • Will Falconer, DVM on April 15, 2018 at 10:29 am

      Hey Sally,
      I’d just get a titer test in 3 weeks. See if the shot conferred immunity. It well could have. I generally take expiry dates with a grain of salt.

  10. Amanda, CVT on November 5, 2016 at 11:49 am

    As a CVT, i was shocked by the first few paragraphs of this article. Who ever thougt “1 and done” when it comes to vaccines has no business taking an animal into their home. 1st time vaccines need to be booster-ed 2-3 times the first year and every year after. Some clinics offer a 3 year rabies vaccine but THAT DOES NOT APPLY TO DISTEMPER, BORDETELLA OR OTHERS! you STILL need to go into the clinic once a year! (At least!) Let the professionals worry about over-vaccination. If you are unsure about what your clinic says, get a second opinion! There is no rule saying you cant change clinics. Look for an AAHA accredited hospital. If you cant afford the vet bills, you cant afford the pet. Sorry to be blunt but a pet is a financial commitment, not a right. Also, for the love of your pet do NOT feed blue buffalo. Google “blue buffalo lawsuit” AND READ! Do not get duped by their false advertising. DONT WORRY ABOUT WHAT IS IN YOUR PETS FOOD, WORRY ABOUT WHAT IT LACKS! Trust companies with LABORATORIES who test their product and above all else: look for a food that is “COMPLETE AND BALANCED FOR ALL LIFE STAGES.” That is allllll you need to read on a bag of pet food!

    • Jeanne on April 1, 2018 at 11:30 pm

      You’re not very informed of the facts. More studying is in order for you.

    • jme yolanda on July 27, 2023 at 5:15 am

      The homeless population doubled during covid, but the stray pet population doubled that! so were talking 4x more stray dogs and cats. Meaning thousands of people had to give up they’re animals or go to the streets with them and thousands more just went to shelters and even more were abandoned due to shelters being full. I do believe (idk if just Oregon) but that the governor passed a no discrimination law on pets same as children so landlords cant say you cant rent a home due to having a dog or cat, saying that “Losing your dog or cat or any companion animal is the same as losing a close family member, like a brother, sister, or best friend” before passing this law. Pet shelters are donated thousands above their overall costs yearly and they do very little to no donating in way of vet bills vaccinations and or getting your dog or cat spayed or neutered, and its tragic and traumatizing, to know your dog has bitten someone and be in fear of them being killed or taken to live they’re life out in a shelters kennel. T you are absurd for saying people shouldn’t own one of these to be stray pets without your care, if they cant take them to a vet or pay the costs of anything related like getting spayed dog training vaccines or common costs based on societal forced standards or whatever because for the cost of one vet visit you can feed and house a dog and provide the dog with entertainment even for a whole year! they’re should be help with companion pet health care for low income families and like listening to music on a quality sound system, pets should be only for well to do people that can afford to own they’re own home and dog bites do happen often and due to laws or low income housing or disgruntled landlords if a dog does not cause blood in no vicious attack you should not have to kill or lose your animal for people are more liable to have been a cruelty factor in and for the lives of dogs that bite in the first place causing them to fear or be aggressive of other people and when people attack animals they’re barely consequence if at all and some people who’s dogs bite don’t get in any trouble yet others do, it should be the same all around for all animals that bite and some of every shelters donations should by state mandate be ordered to go towards saving the animals lives especially when the animal that bit daily saves or improves they’re owners life. Dog owners should always be held responsible to control they’re animal and when they fail are subjected to having a class and or depending severity but should absolutely be treated much like a like a car accident and never affect your housing situation unless owner is blatantly negligent and disregarding previously enforced prevention rules and clauses then the dog should maybe be removed and trained from donation funds and nm what rehomed if and where at all possible. No dog is a lost cause and can be conditioned and trained and behaviors corrected nm how bad they became they were learned and can be unlearned too.

  11. Lynn on August 23, 2016 at 10:53 am

    The 2016 Compendium now treats domestic animals that are not up-to-date with their vaccine, but have had one in the past, as they treat animals that are current, (booster and 45-day observation under owner’s control). The only exception is when the booster is delayed, in which case public health officials have the option of increasing the observation period. This is wonderful news, but I am still looking for the evidence that an up-to-date vaccinated dog can contract rabies. I’ve found evidence of one cat that reportedly did, but I can’t find any dogs in the past 12 years, except one instance where the vaccine was recalled. Can anyone out there share any info that might be helpful?

  12. puppydogs on April 21, 2016 at 11:05 pm

    Great read. Thank you.
    1. What happens if we are overdue for vaccinations but want titers for rabies done at the vet? Will they report the non vaccinated rabies dog to the country? Will they still do the titer draw?
    2. What are your thoughts on the TF mercury free rabies vaccines? I read they’re better but not 100% safe either…

    • Will Falconer, DVM on April 22, 2016 at 9:35 pm

      Depends on your vet. If you don’t have someone you can trust or who’s willing to do what you ask for, it may be time to interview a few more before taking your pocketbook out to vote again.
      Intoxication (mercury) is not the only concern, see this post to learn why.

  13. Distraught Mother on March 19, 2016 at 4:37 am

    My 5 yr old and I came home and my husband told us that our neighbor Tammy and her son Sam had just dropped by to see us. My 5 yr old was excited to have a visitor but sad that she had missed them. So, although it was dinner time we walked 4 houses down and knocked on the door. Tammy has a big dog, I have not really seen it because she says it is territorial and has always put it in a large crate whenever I have come to her door. For reasons unknown at this point, Tammy can’t even explain it, this night she did not put the dog in the crate but instead held it by the collar with one hand and opened the door with the other. The (totally unprovoked, yes we were on HIS property but we were simply going to them after they had come to us when we were not home…that is as close to an invitation as you can get) lunges out in a split second and bites my child. Tammy then goes and puts the dog in the crate and comes back to check on my child. We take her into the house and clean and bandage the “wound.” I have had a hard time calling it a “bite” seeing as it is a one tooth puncture wound. We then sat and ate pizza and talked for about an hour (the dog was in the crate the whole time). I asked her about the dogs vaccinations and she said he was “up to date.” Because she said the dog was up to date I did not take my child to the ER that night. I told Tammy that I understand it was an “accident” and that I would do whatever I could to not take her for medical care. After all her dog is up to date and it is a one tooth puncture wound. My child wanted to go visit the next day (she was not in fear) so I figured no harm, no foul…I will not let her go over there again but it was no big deal. I pick her up from school. Her arm is red, warm to the touch, swollen it was infected. I drove her straight to the doctors and I called Tammy on the way. I told her that I had no choice but to get medical care because it was now infected and I needed her shot records showing that he was “up-to-date” on his rabies shot (I knew the doctor would require because they would be reporting it to the Health Department). She hesitated and then said well according to his certificate he is over do but he is fine. He doesn’t have rabies. Let me tell you that if she had been “up to date” on her rabies shot the thought of suing would never cross my mind. We have been through hell over the last 72 hours dealing with the CDC, doctors (who have little experience dealing with dog bites, next time I will take her straight to the ER), the health department, animal control…by the time it was reported and animal control showed up it was to late and after the 72 hours. This was all after discussions with the doctor of how PEP treatment is not without risk (treatment for my daughter that includes human globulin blood products and would be like giving her 9 blood transfusions giving her the risk of Hep C, HIV and whatever else we don’t even know about that one can get from someone else’s blood)….then he told me that even though I am the parent the decision for her to get treatment is not mine but the Health Department’s. So now the dog is on 10 day quarantine at Tammy’s house (which btw almost did NOT happen simply because I was so pissed off by her telling me that the dog was “up-to-date” when in fact her documentation showed an expired shot record that I felt like she might not tell the truth about the health of her dog over the next 10 days….denial is not only a river in Egypt 😉 I could have not signed off and her dog would have gone to animal control for 10 days at her cost and I can assure you that as aggressive as this dog is it would NOT be returning to Tammy. I have spent the last 4 days consumed by this (educating myself about rabies for 4 days and nights it is 5:22 a.m. and I am still up researching). I am NOW thoroughly pissed and thinking about a lawsuit (documenting everything). It did not start out this way. Had the dog been up to date not according to a titer (which she did not have) but according to a vet we would have gone to the doctor gotten the antibiotics for the bite (topical and oral) and gotten back on with life. I am an animal lover, I have 2 dogs, a lizard, a hamster, fish and a crab but telling people to skip the shots after the first one is just ridiculous and irresponsible. Look at the hell this is putting my family through! You quote Compendium but you fail to mention this:
    Rabies Serology. Certain jurisdictions require evidence of vaccination and rabies virus antibodies for animal importation. Rabies virus antibody titers are indicative of a response to vaccine or infection. Titers do not directly correlate with protection because other immunologic factors also play a role in preventing rabies, and the ability to measure and interpret those other factors is not well-developed. Therefore, evidence of circulating rabies virus antibodies in animals should not be used as a substitute for current vaccination in managing rabies exposures or determining the need for booster vaccinations (27–30).
    (SOURCE: Compendium Part 1(A.)(10.))
    Keep in mind that not only is it too late for my daughter if this dog is in fact infected with rabies from this dog bite but even if she did get approved for PEP which is not even up to me, her mother but some state health official they do NOT know how the PEP Rabies treatment effects children. All because someone wanted to be an irresponsible (in my eyes) dog owner and go to websites such as this that tell her to use a titer (not scientifically proven as stated in the Compendium) to keep her out of trouble if her dog were to bite someone.
    I also happen to have gotten accepted to law school on the very day this dog bit my child. By day 4 of this nightmare, I now understand why people sue over a simple “dog bite.”
    As an educated professional you should be ashamed of yourself for giving people the false sense that this is ok to not vaccinate their animals. The public safety comes FIRST. Until the studies are proven and complete….keep in mind and I know you know this….once a study is complete it still has to be verified and proven that it is a reliable study so although this rabies challenge is almost complete it is still far from over.
    STOP giving people a false sense of security and risking the health of the general public by advising people to not get their animals rabies vaccines. THIS is not the common cold!
    According to the Compendium: Rabies has one of the highest case-fatality ratios of any infectious disease.
    If you are reading this consider this a warning from a legal standpoint – get your pet vaccinated if you want to be sure that you will not be sued should your dog bite someone.
    Food for thought!
    A Disturbed Mom in Florida

    • Distraught Mother on March 19, 2016 at 4:45 am

      P.S. As for efficacy my doctor does not send me a postcard for tetanus but I know if I get cut by a knife I go in and get a booster even though I have already had the vaccine (more than once). Until a study is proven and verified it is worthless and simply not true.

      • Laura on January 13, 2023 at 7:48 pm

        Firstly, I agree with you about the information here, total BS and dangerous. That said, I am rolling my eyes at your comment. Apparently (according to you) you are smart enough to be accepted to law school, but not smart enough to take your kid for medical treatment for a dog bite until it gets infected? You say you almost don’t consider the wound a “bite” because it was just one puncture. Key word here is PUNCTURE. You claim to know all about tetanus shots, yet your child gets a puncture wound from a dog bite, and you don’t even bother to address it. And you go on and on here about how everyone else is in the wrong. How about being a responsible parent?

  14. McCoy's Mom on December 27, 2015 at 2:38 pm

    Reading the AVMA stance on rabies vaccine waivers makes me angry. Specifically the wording that the vaccine is NOT contraindincated in most immunocomprimised animals. wouldnt the labeling and vaccine insert contradict this statement !?
    It also goes on to say advanced age is not grounds for waiver to be given…

  15. L on June 4, 2015 at 6:23 pm

    Do birds carry and spread rabies? My dog caught and killed 2 low flying small ones today 🙁

  16. Sandra Hodges on March 23, 2015 at 7:06 pm

    Dr. Falconer,
    Thank you for taking the time to post the lovely pictures of nature in your newsletter.

    • Will Falconer, DVM on March 23, 2015 at 9:36 pm

      Oh, you’re most welcome, Sandra. I’m glad you like them.

  17. Ellen on March 19, 2015 at 11:18 am

    URL for CDC directives to veterinarians for caring for client animals:
    There is a vast difference in the protocol of how to treat clients with up-to-date vaccinations versus clients without u-t-d vaccination. It is suggested that unvaccinated pets be euthanized immediately and if the owner is unwilling, placed in isolation for 6 months… I would strongly urge you to heed Dr. Falconer’s advice (as well as Dr. Schultz and Dr. Dodds) of getting at least one rabies vaccination.
    This is written under the “Vaccination” section under the sub heading of Serologic titers. It will be a milestone for sure when the results of The Rabies Challenge Fund change the minds and then the laws to benefit our pets.
    “Titers do not directly correlate with protection because other immunologic factors also play a role in preventing rabies, and the ability to measure and interpret those other factors are not well developed. Therefore, evidence of circulating rabies virus antibodies should not be used as a substitute for current vaccination in managing rabies exposures or determining the need for booster vaccinations in animals.”
    Dr. Falconer, can you elaborate on what is meant by this statement concerning other immunologic factors and why they would interfere with a rabies titer result? Thanks!

    • Will Falconer, DVM on March 19, 2015 at 11:52 am

      Sure, Ellen. What they are talking about is the entire arm (of the two arms of immune response) that titers cannot measure: cell mediated immunity. That’s where the long term immune memory is stored. I talk more about this on this page.

      • Ellen on March 19, 2015 at 2:09 pm

        There’s nothing we can do but try to educate, even the vets. Thank you so much, Dr. Falconer. I really enjoy your articles and blog. I have also contacted you regarding the Rabies Tautode. I went through the Contact page, and can resend it to your e-mail if you prefer.

  18. Susan Dailey on March 16, 2015 at 5:13 am

    I have to also say in my job I respond to calls of sick wild animals, and in my 18 years of this I have only seen distemper in wild animals, however I have heard that some states do have a problem with rabies.

    • Will Falconer, DVM on March 17, 2015 at 6:02 pm

      We’ve seen both diseases in Texas, Susan. Distemper periodically shows itself, though it’s getting more rare. Might have to do with our Mexican border, but we had quite an epidemic wash through Austin 4-5 years ago.

  19. Susan Dailey on March 16, 2015 at 5:10 am

    One of my dogs years ago had a reaction which destroyed her immune system, 7 years ago I switched all my dogs to a raw diet against my vets advice and stopped vaccinating. Since then my dog made a full recovery that was a long road. I did do the titer which is very expensive, for my four dogs it would be for titers and licensing over 1,000.00. I find this ridiculously over priced possibly to discourage you from going a different route. I choose to not do either, someday the local animal control will catch up with modern ideas.

  20. Allison Hornsby on February 4, 2015 at 10:53 pm

    Hello, I am going to be vaccinating my 7 month old Staffordshire Bull Terrier puppy with his first rabies vaccine to comply with the law. There is no family history of adverse reactions that I am aware of, BUT I want to be cautious. Should I use Lyssin and if so when? Does Lyssin help prevent damage caused by rabies vaccine? Also is there a specific brand of rabies vaccine and/or dose I should ask for OR avoid ? Any information you have is GREATLY appreciated….Thank you .

    • Will Falconer, DVM on February 8, 2015 at 10:12 pm

      Hi Allison,
      There doesn’t need to be a family history to have chronic disease outcomes after a vaccination. I don’t use lyssin any longer, but I do send a tautode home with my clients if they feel they have no choice but to vaccinate. It’s a remedy made from the vaccine itself, and is given before an after vaccination.
      As you may have read, no difference between one year and three year rabies except the label, so you might as well get three years of peace before you have to think about this again. Brands I no longer keep up with. I suspect they are not significantly different.
      Contact me via my Contact page, subject line Rabies Tautode, and I’ll exchange info with you if you are interested in trying it.

  21. L on February 3, 2015 at 3:27 pm

    You were lucky, over the years I have gone to urgent care on 2 occasions because of a dog bite, both times the wound was showing signs of infection and I knew I needed antibiotics.
    Both times the injury was caused by my own small breed dog who was up to date on vaccinations.
    I suppose if you accidently hurt yourself trying to hang a picture on the wall with a hammer and nail, the same type of injury could result.

  22. Wendy on February 3, 2015 at 2:55 pm

    I also got bit breaking up a dog fight. Don’t know which dog bit me. My dog was not up to date the other dog was. It bled profusely and someone warned me to get a tetanus shot, but I didn’t go to a Dr or get a tetanus shot and I was fine.

  23. L on February 3, 2015 at 8:20 am

    @Shama, proceed with caution. My 10 pound dog developed severe allergies after getting her 2 rabies shots. Never again. She is stable now, but will probably need treatment the rest of her life. I just pick my dog up if I sense any trouble ahead, it’s easy with the little ones 🙂

    • Shama on February 4, 2015 at 8:26 am

      Hey L,
      I know I know, giving her the rabies vaccination is a great risk. I do pick her up often if there’s any question. But these things usually happen so fast and I’m walking two dogs at the same time. It’s usually a tangled mess and traumatic. I really don’t want to give up walking them though because they love it so much. After an event I give up walking for a while and they start getting fat and lazy and that’s not good for them either. Ughhhh. This has been a stress factor for me for a long time. To vaccinate and do possible harm and worry about that, or don’t vaccinate and worry about that.

      • L on February 4, 2015 at 8:40 am

        The other problem/risk with not vaccinating is the occasional rabid animal, usually a skunk or a raccoon that could cross your path.
        I’ve only had this happen 2 times in the past 10 years….a raccoon and a squirrel, it wasn’t pretty. Luckily I was able to pick up my dogs and run, both times the rabid animal was coming after us in broad daylight.
        “Damned if you do, damned if you don’t”

        • Will Falconer, DVM on February 4, 2015 at 9:46 am

          L: How is that a problem? If you have vaccinated, do you not believe immunity is there against what you vaccinated against?
          Immunologists would have a problem with that.

          • L on February 4, 2015 at 10:01 am

            It could be a problem if you were bitten or the dog was bitten…..and either of you needed treatment.
            My first response would be to call 911, both times that I saw a rabid animal, children were nearby.
            Then they would recommend that you the human get the rabies vaccine treatment, they may not accept titers or outdated rabies vaccines for the dog. So, who knows how far they would take it.
            Of course if you live in the city you don’t have too worry about these things.
            I also have coyotes in my area and they don’t look very healthy.
            Of course I have a 6 foot high fence, that helps.

  24. Tricia on February 2, 2015 at 2:57 pm

    You can’t be too careful. And especially with all the press that the Disney Measles issues are getting currently – antivax and provax terms are being thrown around like sharp daggers. Best to get your ducks in a row PRIOR to any issues.
    Here’s what I do because we visit the public space (dog parks, walks to market) daily. I keep hard copies of the following in my car and in an online folder that can be easily viewed and emailed from my phone. My only caution is to mind your personal data on the docs.
    1. last rabies certificate (out of date)
    2. waiver letter from vet (even though I live in a non exempt state – this is valuable)
    3. latest titer results (JDodd)
    4. copy of statute or rabies law in current county/state – with highlighted portions
    5. full articles with highlighted portions
    a. AVMA update that waivers are sometimes necessary
    b. Rabies Challenge fund – R. Schultz summary on lifelong immunity
    c. I am going to add this Compendium that Dr. Falconer outlines.

    • Will Falconer, DVM on February 2, 2015 at 6:36 pm

      Great tactic, Tricia, thanks. Would you include the link to the AVMA page that you use please?

      • Shama on February 3, 2015 at 6:15 am

        I have a beagle mix, Barney, who on the way home from his 3rd rabies shot had a seizure in the car. A month later he started having cluster and Grand mall seizures. He’s been in Phenobarbital for the past 4 years and it’s affecting his liver. The Vaccine ruined his Heath for life. I have proof of past vaccinations for him and will also titer and arm myself with the ammo mentioned above.
        I also have an 8lb toy rat terrier, Sadie, who I adopted at age 2, she’s now 6. The previous owner died before I could get her vaccination records. I don’t have any proof of Rabies for her but I know she was vaccinated at least once because I called her breeder (I did get that record). They give all vaccination records to the adopter and had no copies. I know small dogs are at higher risk for reaction to vaccination. What do I do? Can I prepare her before and treat after a vaccination to protect her? She’s mostly an inside dog but we’ve been attacked several times on our walks by loose dogs and I want to protect her from euthanasia if she bites anyone or anything during a skirmish. I plan in doing a Titer, but that’s all I have for her. I don’t want what happened to Barney to happen to her.

        • Will Falconer, DVM on February 3, 2015 at 8:22 am

          Hi Shama, it sounds like the proof is riskier than you care to have, isn’t it? I’d get a titer, and carry a Compendium copy with the pertinent section highlighted.
          That, and preventing skirmishes should get you by without much cost or risk.

          • Shama on February 4, 2015 at 8:15 am

            Hi Doc, I will definitely do the titers and have the paper ammo. So there’s really nothing I can do to prepare her before and treat after a vaccination to protect her? Not getting it seems the safest for her Health, but a bite could cost her her life. Avoiding skirmishes is only possible if I never walk them. Unfortunately dogs get out of their yards and it’s been my experience that they attack the first dog they see. I’ve been bitten several times by these dogs trying to get them off my dogs. Dogs bite and Sadie’s a dog.

          • Shama on March 10, 2015 at 12:02 pm

            Hi Dr Falconer,
            I had Sadie’s Titers done as you advised. Both the Distemper Virus and the Parvovirus ‘ELISA Panel’ tested Positive therefore she is protected and I don’t have to re-vaccinate, Hurray. Unfortunately the Rabies Titer-Response was ‘Less than 0.5 IU/mL’, which is considered unacceptable by the World Health Organization. Even though I know she was vaccinated as a puppy, I don’t have any vaccinations records for her. Her previous owner died before I could get them. (I adopted her at 2, she’s now 6 and I’ve never vaccinated her myself) I don’t have the past vaccination record protection for her. Plus, we live in Oak Hill and have Squirrel, Rats and Bunnies, which she chases if she sees them before we do. I know there’s a chance she may still have immunity but I don’t have any protection for her if she were to bite someone. I would like to travel with her and sometimes s**t happens, she’s a dog and dogs bite. I think I’m going to need to Vaccinate her for Rabies, as much as I hate to do it. She’s 8 lbs and I’m worried since I now have a brain-damaged Barney on seizure meds due to his last/3rd Rabies Vaccination.
            The Vet that did the titers mentioned preparing Sadie prior to the Rabies Vaccination with Benedryl, and treating her after with a Nosode. What do you think of that plan? Could that be the ‘Rabies Tautode’ that you mentioned in a later post? I’m going to contact you through your Contact page for information about that ‘Rabies Tautode’ but I wanted to post this here for others to read in my situation. If it will protect her then I do want to do that.
            I hope this thread is still active.

      • Tricia on February 3, 2015 at 1:51 pm

        URL of AVMA Rabies Waiver policy: https://www.avma.org/KB/Policies/Pages/Annual-Rabies-Vaccination-Waiver.aspx
        The part I highlighted when I put in my book is in the first paragraph:
        “However, AVMA recognizes some animals might require a waiver from rabies vaccination because the vaccination poses an unacceptably high risk to the health of the individual animal,…”

        • Will Falconer, DVM on February 3, 2015 at 5:11 pm

          This is amazing, coming from the AVMA! You know, the guys who thought raw food an unacceptable risk to the average dog? They even have a link to a model waiver form here.
          Good stuff, everybody. Print and/or save to your Evernote account.

      • Kelli on November 27, 2017 at 3:03 am

        I have always believed the vets and literature that says your animals have to be vaccinated annually (now they say every three years after the second vaccination) to keep them protected from rabies, as well as other boosters.
        My husband has a dog from before we were married who has established himself as a biter. He has trust issues and the first time he bit me was early in our relationship (7-8 years ago.) I thought we were past the trust issues but tonight he bit me twice when I entered the room – puncturing the skin above my left ankle and drawing blood at my right knee. I did startle him but his aggression did not abate even after I spoke to him and turned on the light so we could see each other.
        His rabies vaccination is out of date by a few years but there is little risk he’s been exposed recently; I was concerned any risk of exposure is too much if not seeing a doctor could result in my death.
        I hate the idea of having him euthanized but I am equally if not more against the risk of my 4 year old being bitten.

        • Will Falconer, DVM on November 27, 2017 at 9:59 pm

          Kelli, it’s most important, for your peace of mind, to order a rabies titer test. Odds are, he’s not “out of immunity” though he may be “out of date” by the arbitrary standards used in the conventional medical world bent on vaccinating.
          Your vet draws the blood, sends to Kansas State lab, they run the test and send results.
          Key point: immunity to virus vaccines “lasts for years if not the life of the animal.” — https://vitalanimal.com/vacc-efficacy/

  25. Nora on February 2, 2015 at 12:53 pm

    After my dad died his Brittany Spaniel, “Nick” underwent a personality change. This gentle dog that had spent his first five years sleeping on Dad’s feet, bit a nurse who lived nearby who walked past the yard one day. I was at work when it happened so I was not there to protect Nick from the gestapo Animal Control people who seized him and euthanized him almost immediately. They were in the wrong, clearly, but this is what we have to deal with when bureaucrats are allowed to think they have authority over us. The nurse threatened to sue me, even though she had no serious injury and hadn’t required stitches. The really horrible thing was that Nick was up to date on Rabies shots, there was no reason for them to even remove him in the first place. He was protecting his yard, which was way down a marked, “dead end” road, and a stranger was trespassing despite the private property warning. In my opinion Nick was killed for doing his job, and the “authorities” should be deprived of theirs.

    • Will Falconer, DVM on February 2, 2015 at 6:33 pm

      Oh my God. Euthanized just like that?
      Yet another example of ignorant people making life and death decisions. Read this and be prepared, folks. You’ll need to be smarter (and quicker!) than dumbbells like this, regardless of vaccination status. Nick was up to date!!
      I’m so sorry you had to go through this, Nora. How terribly unfortunate for Nick and your family.

      • Nora on February 3, 2015 at 11:15 am

        Thanks, Doc. You know, I learned a painful lesson here; make sure that the phone numbers connected to your dog’s registration is current, (just in case something like this happens) if a love one dies and you assume responsibility for a beloved pet. If Animal Control had been able to reach me, things might have gone differently. Dad’s number was all they had. I’d have fought for Nick and gotten him back, instead of watching my kids cry over his untimely end.

  26. Belinda on February 2, 2015 at 12:46 pm

    Hi all, My 11 yr old westie had a bad allergic/digestive reaction to hi 6 mo. rabies booster so he hasn’t had any vaccs since then. I lived in Europe until recently and travelled internationally with my westie all the time with only a rabies titer paper. We did annual titers in Europe, cost was about $65. Coming to the USA was a non-issue with this rabies titer document.
    I also now have a non-vaccinated Scotty puppy who was with her mother until 12 weeks old. I will get her titered soon and believe the mother’s immunities will be present in her pup.

    • Will Falconer, DVM on February 2, 2015 at 6:30 pm

      Wow, Belinda! When did you come through the US border with only a titer? That’s news and quite surprising to me!

  27. Tracy on February 2, 2015 at 11:53 am

    Love this article. Thanks so much!! My 4 year old Westie has been totally over-vaccinated, so this year will be different. Titers and Heartworm check, and NO rabies vaccination (this is supposedly her year for the shot).
    My question is about puppies. I am thinking of getting another Westie, but without all the shots and vaccinations. If the Rabies ‘out of date’ option may be a get out of jail card free… would it make sense to get ONE shot to get the certification and proof?? Plus, if we travel to the U.S., I have been told (perhaps incorrectly) that a Rabies Vaccination is required.
    Kymba and I say Thanks!!

    • Will Falconer, DVM on February 2, 2015 at 6:28 pm

      Hi Tracy,
      With rare exception (very, very rare), I recommend every dog get a rabies vaccination sometime after 4 months of age. The odds of lifetime immunity are high if you wait till that age. Then, yes, you have proof of vaccinated vs unvaccinated, a much better position to be in.
      International travel: every country you go to will have immutable rules that you must follow to get in. No wiggle room there.

      • Tracy on February 2, 2015 at 6:51 pm

        Thanks so much Dr. Falconer! That is what I was thinking. Do you also recommend the first round of puppy shots, due to concerns over Parvo? I understood that the mother’s immunity would protect the puppy.
        Thanks again! Great info!

        • Will Falconer, DVM on February 3, 2015 at 6:19 am

          I actually use parvo and distemper nosodes for the first nine months of age, in place of vaccinations. Mom’s immunity runs out at a certain point. If you want them, contact me through my Contact page, subject line Nosodes Please.

          • Helen Cons on February 8, 2015 at 7:21 pm

            Hello Will, LOVE YOUR SITE!! I resonate with ALL of it on a deep level, and am so grateful you are here, sharing with us, and are actually available. THANK YOU! I LEARN SO MUCH HERE!! I wanted to share something I learned about rabies here, and then I wanted to ask you a question.
            The pet groomers at Petco refused to trim my cat’s claws without a rabies vaccination certificate! I was shocked. I will have to learn how to do it myself. Other persons on this blog may want to know this.
            The question I had for you is about your suggestions for homeopathics for vaccine induced distemper. I adopted a beautiful Persian cat. His owner died, and a woman across the street who had four or five Persians herself, took the cat to adopt it out to someone. I adopted the cat. I did not know that he was in the last stage of distemper, with all the symptoms: bleeding, stinky and runny stools, thick gooey dark liquid coming out of his eyes and his nose, and frequent and strong seizures at night when he was sleeping. I gave him what you suggested for vaccine induced distemper. It took a long time, but it eventually removed most of the symptoms. There is a little bleeding left in the stools, everything has been healed. I gave him the Thuga 200 homeopathic you recommended for vaccine induced distemper. However the problem is if I miss ONE DAY of giving him the medicine, the symptoms return, and get worse every day, then they get better when I give him this homeopathic again. Is it possible that the distemper is not vaccine induced, but real? If it is, do I need to give him a different homeopathic? He is very well adjusted emotionally now, and is very loving and affectionate. Let me know what to do. THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU SO MUCH!! Sincerely, helen

          • Will Falconer, DVM on February 8, 2015 at 10:02 pm

            Hi Helen,
            So, unless I’m not recognizing your name, I don’t think I prescribed for this cat and if I did, certainly not thuja 200C daily. That’s not how I work. This cat needs to be under the care of a homeopath, regardless of where the illness has come from. Seriously chronically ill, so there’s no way to do homeopathy without lots of give and take between client, patient, and doctor.

  28. Judi on February 2, 2015 at 11:32 am

    My dog bit my husband about 6 months after we adopted him. He was up to date on his rabies because the shelter had made sure of it. So we were able to do a 10 day “quarantine” at home. That was back in 2002 in a different county. They did not make us go to a vet – just observe and document his behavior daily and then talk to the county animal control again in 10 days. Then in 2013, he bit my husband again in the same place – his nose – and he required stitches again. This time we are in a different county. The hospital reported the bite and the county called us 5 days later and told us if we didn’t get him checked immediately by a vet, they would come and get him for “quarantine”. So we took him to the only vet open at that time of night (they called 4pm, so by the time we argued and they threatened us, only one was still open). So we took him in to have a vet check and were supposed to come back in another 5 days for a final. Since we had to go back to the same vet, that’s what we did. Our dog was so afraid of the people and the commotion that he showed his bad side and he is no longer with us because we were forced to go to a vet rather than do a home quarantine. I failed my dog because I didn’t push back hard enough that we could do a home quarantine and he didn’t legally need a vet “check”. This is no joke folks. Have the information printed out so you have your ammunition. Even though titers are expensive, if your pet has a reaction to the vaccination, have the Titer done and keep those records with you always. I now have a binder with each of my pets records and the printout of the cdc and county requirements. I will go to jail next time over them saying my pet has to be euthanized. It’s been 2 years this month and it still shocks me that this is how he died. He always had some behavioral issues which were documented by us, but that wasn’t good enough. According to the county we are now in, a dog should never bite (even if teased by a stupid person). Thankfully our dog had a good life and we managed his quirky behavior for 10 years, but I miss him every single day.

    • Will Falconer, DVM on February 2, 2015 at 6:25 pm

      Oh, Judi, I’m so sorry you lost your dog to this kind of craziness. It sounds like a sad “perfect storm” that took his life. The silver lining is that you are now fully prepared should you ever get into a bite situation like this again.
      Thanks so much for sharing this painful story with us.

    • CJ on February 2, 2015 at 8:48 pm

      I have been bitten several times, but have only needed to go to the doctor once….and I lied about how I got injured…..I don’t need the police coming to my home and have what happened to you happen to me. I rescue, train, breed, and interact daily with dogs….I have been bitten through interceding in a dog fight, and been bitten by a new scared sh!tless rescue….. life is still good!

      • Will Falconer, DVM on February 3, 2015 at 5:05 pm

        Good for you, CJ. Avoidance of unnecessary regulatory medicine makes perfect sense to me, especially if you see the bites as part of expected behavior. Just don’t let your guard down for a bite that seemed completely unwarranted. You’d want to think long and hard before ignoring the possibility of rabies.

    • Dawn on October 17, 2016 at 2:57 pm

      Why were forced to Euthanize your dog? I’m not clear on the actual reason if he was up to date on shots? I was forced into giving my dig a rabies shot in April… It is now October and see has to get a leg amputation due to a severe reaction to the rabies shot!!!! We were told this is the most severe reaction (all 12 vets have ever seen), she popped a cantaloupe sized tumor that grew by the day and completely lost the use of her leg. I’m angry and heartbroken! I didn’t know dogs could be exempt and I feel so responsible for my poor beautiful dogs suffering

  29. Jennifer McKinnis on February 2, 2015 at 11:27 am

    In the quote above it says, “Any stray or unwanted pet…” Laws are specific to the verbage. It does not say ‘any pet’. It says STRAY or UNWANTED. I spoke with Texas Vector Control at length over this, because I have a condition that makes it harmful to me, to have my service dog vaccinated. The head of the rabies program said they are most likely to quarentine the animal, if its behaving rationally and with a responsible owner. Though he won’t guarentee every officer’s response. I’m planning on getting the titer, since we’ve been out in the woods a couple of summers now, where she could have picked up immunity.

    • Will Falconer, DVM on February 2, 2015 at 6:19 pm

      That “won’t guarantee every officer’s response” is just what I’m suggesting everyone be ready for. You having supporting documentation, like the Compendium and a past vaccination certificate (and a friendly attitude) should keep you safe.
      Let us know if you find a titer, Jennifer. Still intrigues me how this is possible, but readers are saying it is, so I believe them.

  30. L on February 2, 2015 at 10:29 am

    My traditional vet said he would do a titer (rabies) and if the level was high enough, then maybe he would sign the waiver for my dog that has a medical condition.
    I declined.
    Titers can be expensive, so make sure it will be worth your while. Any vet can draw a blood sample and have it sent out for a titer.
    If you go to the home page, I believe you will find a link to homeopathic vets located in your area.
    Keep in mind that if the results come back low you will be pressured to comply with vaccines.

    • Will Falconer, DVM on February 2, 2015 at 6:15 pm

      For those who don’t want to buckle under this sort of pressure, information will help. Any titer showing = immunity established. So say the experts. “Protective” levels of titer is a construct, and an arbitrary one.
      You can take the presence of any titer to mean that it’s highly likely there’s a long term immunity that will be “awakened” suddenly upon exposure to the disease agent.

      • Rosemarie on July 20, 2017 at 7:48 am

        How about giving Homeopathic Lessin at time of shot?

        • Will Falconer, DVM on July 20, 2017 at 9:43 am

          Hey Rosemarie,
          Several of us in homeopathic practice used to use lyssin (remedy made from rabid saliva) around vaccination time, but in my circle of colleagues, we’ve evolved to using the rabies vaccine tautode instead (remedy made from the vaccine itself).
          I give it before and after the shot, so far so good.
          That’s based on good work done on autism cures from the people who followed Dr. Tinus Smits’ work, aka CEASE therapy.

    • Chris on April 4, 2018 at 8:36 pm

      I was told by my vet that there are no levels in titer testing, it is either positive or negative. Also, a titer should not cost you more than $75.

  31. Joanne Keenan on February 2, 2015 at 10:17 am

    Thanks for the head’s up and the ammunition! As I’m in Canada, I’d like to add this link for anyone from Ontario, Canada. http://www.health.gov.on.ca/en/pro/programs/publichealth/oph_standards/docs/rabies_prevention.pdf Although it doesn’t appear to reference lapsed vaccinations, it offers background and details low-risk (family pet) vs high-risk (bats, foxes).
    Ironically, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency references the US compendium but leaves it at that. 🙁 That tells me animal control MAY be aware of the US practices.
    Three years ago, I did experience a bite from a newly-adopted dog who was overly excited. Animal control was very helpful in our initial phone discussion — and busy — as they just looked in the window on Day 1 and then again on Day 10 as this wasn’t a high-risk situation. Kuhl was “up to date” on rabies vaccine from his previous owner but I haven’t vaccinated in the three years I’ve had him. After reading this I am motivated to find a vet that will titre him and my other adopted dog Jack. Both were vaccinated the first three and five years of their lives so it’s my belief they should be covered.
    My only concern is that I like to travel to the US with them and haven’t been able to do so without “current” paperwork.
    Knowledge and information is great ammunition to have at hand should a bite occur.

    • Will Falconer, DVM on February 2, 2015 at 6:12 pm

      Thanks for providing the Canadian experience, Joanne, or at least your province’s. And if there are others who cross the border regularly, perhaps they’d share their experiences. As it stands, does “current” paperwork mean rabies every three years?
      Interstate in the US, health certificates can be signed by a vet with rabies “out of date” by usual standards and no one notices, to my knowledge. Main thing: signature, appropriate blanks filled out, boxes checked, etc.
      I’m sure international travel is more restrictive. But I’ve also heard through the grapevine that trans-Canadian/US travel happens with dogs regularly w/o necessarily having up to date rabies. Anyone know how?

      • Bram's Mum on February 3, 2015 at 10:53 am

        Thanks for this excellent but scary article. We, too, live in Ontario and have travelled many times to the U.S. Our experience over the past eight years has been that the request for rabies docs is completely random; we’ve crossed often without being asked for any proof. I have been asked for them on the way back into Canada more than on my way to the U.S.
        My special boy (4yrs GSD) was diagnosed with idiopathic epilepsy ten months ago and has experienced twelve GM’s to date, the last 48 hours ago. He is on three AED’s and is considered a “serious epileptic” by his neurologist. (You’d never know it to look at him!!) His rabies is due in March of this year, so I am anxiously researching. Our regular vet does practice some homeopathy and is not a typical “whitecoat” and is not averse to giving medical notes where warranted, and tries to deal with the system while looking out for her patients and maintaining her professional integrity.
        At this point, I am looking at having a titer done, as there is no way I want to introduce anything that could impact his seizures. On top of that, he is a very intelligent, vibrant, enthusiastic well behaved family pet but the reality is that he is a GSD and there are loads of pre and misconceptions about the breed. That can be scary enough even when vaccines etc are up to date.

      • Cathy on December 18, 2015 at 11:01 pm

        I flew from canada to usa annually for 7 years with my maltese and the rabies certificate was checked EVERY time coming and going.
        Doesnt the person bitten by a dog without current rabies shot have to endure painful injections for rabies? And even if it turns out not to be rabies, arent you going to get sued for pain and suffering due to your negligence?

        • Will Falconer, DVM on December 19, 2015 at 10:28 am

          Hi Cathy,
          It may sound trite or “woo woo” even, but your expectations and fears will often bring you into the line of sight of what you fear most. I’ve had the opposite experience in my life: my night for emergencies, I get home and intend to meditate for an hour, undisturbed. No calls. After I’m done, and eaten dinner, I might get a call. Years of that experience.
          A dog with a history of rabies vaccination should not cause a round of prophylaxis for a bitten person. Read the Compendium to be certain, but I’m pretty certain that’s true.
          If your dog bites someone, sure, you are responsible. I wrote about that further here. Two separate issues.

        • Dede on December 20, 2015 at 3:23 pm

          Hi, Cathy.
          We’ve flown twice with two of our small dogs inside the cabin with us. The airline employees only briefly checked that we had a rabies certificate but never said anything about the date. I doubt they even looked for that. If they had, they might have said the dogs were 3-4 years “overdue” for another shot. Knowing that one vaccination lasts a lifetime, we’re never again vaccinating, and I would have argued with them about this fact. There is no proof that more than one vaccination is needed.

        • jodi brownfield on October 15, 2017 at 12:14 am

          I was bit yesterday by the neighbors’ 1.5 yr old pit who’s had No immunizations. No 10 day hold by animal control “we are overwhelmed by the fires and all the pets we’ve got from it’. I’ll file civil suit since the county voted not to allow animal euthanization even for animals that bite repeatedly.

        • Taylor Jackson on September 29, 2020 at 3:50 pm

          I got bit 2 weeks ago by a friends dog and finally found out today,the vaccines are not up to date so yes I will now have to have painful rabies shots in my stomach over the next two weeks. My bite ending up being a stage 4 out of 6 puncture and tear wound that went through the middle of my palm and out through my thumb with no fracture! Which is good but I have no feeling in my little and ring fingers. I’ve avoided the”suit’s” all this time and they finally got me today so I had to fill out the dog bite report with the health unit. I don’t want to involve my friend’s insurance but I have no choice. Because I was bit at a private residence,OHIP wants to be paid back and I’m the 1 that has to now tell my friend she has to call her insurance company. I understand all of this as our free health-care” is big business and why should they pay. I just feel sick because my friend broke her back and is in a wheelchair so I don’t want to cause them anymore grief but at the same time I now have to see an upper limb specialist. Her dog obviously doesn’t have rabies and has been in quarantine for 2 weeks but this is the 3rd person she’s bit. My friend hasn’t even told her husband and he’s not going to be happy. She has 3 females and I was always told you shouldn’t have more than 1 queen in the house. It was a jealousy thing and we both saw it coming a second before it happened. The aggressor had the other dog by the throat and it wasn’t going to end well if I didn’t jump in and my friend being in a wheelchair has been dumped twice before so it was just a natural reaction and that’s when I got bit so I do take some of the blame for sure but they were fighting so hard and probably didn’t see anything but red that I’m pretty sure 1 wasn’t going to walk away as she’s had her throat ripped open before. To top it off,1 was pregnant and due the next day. She did deliver 5 healthy pups and thats why I was there. Had I known they fight,I would’ve insisted the jealous 1 be in her crate. Lesson learned but now I’m in the middle of a potential huge mess that could very well end our friendship. I am mad that she waited this long to tell me but I understand she’s probably terrified but at the same time this is not ok with me.
          Any thoughts would be most welcome as I really feel I’m stuck between a rock and a hard place.

          • Will Falconer, DVM on September 30, 2020 at 5:11 am

            Wow, several thoughts. First, you are smarter than your health department, from the sounds of it: this was highly likely NOT a bite because of rabies. This is a bite from a badly behaved dog who got interrupted while fighting with another dog.

            Second, if you can put your foot down to resist the shots (not in the belly, not painful any longer, but vaccines are best avoided if you value your long term health), I’d refuse them. Surely you can see they are not going to help you or protect your from a disease that’s not there.

            Third, you’re likely to need serious work to your hand, agreed. If you can, I’d also hire (out of pocket, I’m afraid) a homeopathic practitioner to help hasten the healing.

            And finally, it’s important for everyone reading this to know that the dog being “out of date” on rabies vaccines has nothing to do with the determination of whether or not a bitten person gets recommended to get PEP (post exposure prophylaxis). That decision is based on the likelihood of the biter to be rabid. If this behavior on the dog’s part was unheard of until recently, that’s a stronger argument that the bite may have been caused by rabies. Nothing in the history suggests this.

            Maybe finally finally: you may need a lawyer to help you through this. Lot of complications to deal with and a big dollop of ignorance on the part of your local health dept. Best of luck, Taylor. Nothing easy about getting out of this unscathed.

    • Lorraine on June 6, 2017 at 6:24 am

      Thanks for a great article! I live in spain with my lovely gsd cross rescue dog and am totally anti the annual rabies shot they state is a legal requirement.
      He had it ( without mercury as I insisted! ) And parvo as a pup but I don’t want him to have more. My concern is if we have to travel back to uk or go to the vet for anything we could get fined or forced into it or worse.
      Please can you advise me on what to do? I know you are advising from the US but I don’t know who to turn to here for help.

      • Will Falconer, DVM on June 6, 2017 at 12:32 pm

        Hey Lorraine,
        International travel: all bets are off. You are controlled by forces greater than I can help you with.
        At your vet? A whole different story, but you have to be smarter than the vets on duration of immunity (search that phrase on this site and you’ll get right up to speed). And then, speak confidently that more vaccines are not something you will be giving your already-vacc’d pup. No fine, no forcing (though they may try).
        There’s absolutely no basis in immunology for annual rabies vaccination. None. Will they try to arrest you for being wise about this? Not if you present it from a confident position and politely decline future shots. (And really, nowhere in my knowledge does a vet have any kind of law enforcement capacity, and I doubt if Spain is any different in that regard.)

  32. Marilyn on February 2, 2015 at 10:13 am

    I would like to know where to have a titer done since I do not know any holistic vets in my neck of the woods. Do you have any suggestions?

    • RJ on February 2, 2015 at 11:13 am

      Go to hemopet.com. print out the form for rabies titer. Take it with your dog to your vet and he will do the blood draw as per the instructions on the sheet. He then couriers it to hemopet (this is Jean Dodd’s clinic). Attach a note asking for her comments. She will say in writing that the dog is adequately or more than adequately protected. Her fee is $75. Your vet will charge for blood draw. Let it be known I had (on a whim/hunch) 7 year old of mine who has never been vax for anything, titered for rabies. He came back MORE than adequate protection. He had never eaten bait drops.

      • Marie on September 10, 2016 at 9:46 pm

        Parvo does exist. They die within 3 days

    • Aimee on February 2, 2015 at 5:23 pm

      Rabies titers are processed by the Kansas State University Rabies Laboratory. You want the RFFIT Rabies Vaccine Response Titer Test – Not for Pet Travel. The actual test is RFFIT-Rabies Antibody Endpoint, and KSU’s fee is $65. A submission form and instructions for your vet are available from http://www.ksvdl.org/rabies-laboratory/rffit-tests/. Your vet will charge for drawing and shipping the blood sample.

    • Dede on February 4, 2015 at 2:28 am

      The blood can be mailed into Hemopet or the lab doing the titer test. It needs to be kept cold; a gel ice pack works well. Check out the different places as costs vary. I know a vet in our area who charges $400 for the same titer test we paid $80 for. Dr. Whitecoat strikes again.

    • donna on February 17, 2019 at 7:21 am


    • Mary Burke on August 23, 2021 at 10:51 pm

      go to savethepets.com
      you can get titers done for a reasonable charge.

  33. L on February 2, 2015 at 7:59 am

    Okay, so what are our choices?
    1) Fly under the radar, worry about what might happen…
    2) Comply with the law and give the rabies shot as dictated by your town, city or state.
    3) Find a homeopathic or traditional vet that will agree with you that your dog meets the requirements for a medical waiver, and will sign it.
    4) Have titers done in the hope that your town will accept them?
    Any other ideas? All dogs bite, this has been my experience.

    • Cathy on November 27, 2015 at 6:52 pm

      My dog lived to be 16 and never even growled her whole life, and she certainly never bit anyone. All dogs do not bite. Certain breeds bite more than others. Dogs that are bred for personality are less apt to bite than dogs that are bred indiscriminately
      That has been my experience. And my non growling dog was a well bred maltese..

    • Dede on November 27, 2015 at 8:17 pm

      All dogs do not bite. Our family has owned over 24 dogs over the years and none of them ever bit. Rabies vaccination can cause aggression and I’ve seen that happen to several dogs.

      • BriLarcrest on November 25, 2017 at 4:42 pm

        If they have teeth, and normal nervous function, they can bite.
        Wisdom of a trainer. I offer it free.

        • alex on January 11, 2019 at 11:16 am

          plz help me lol do chihuahuas usauly bite cause my dog doesn’t have her rabies shot she hates water and is scared by loud noises and moving things she knows sit kinda plz help me idw my dogs head to be cut off

        • Brenda G on August 22, 2021 at 1:42 pm

          My adopted, puppy-mill rescued, female Toy Poodle has all of her “bases covered”…..she has NO Teeth and has never shown an ounce of nervousness!
          Had rabies titer done and vet provides annual exemption to rabies shot.

          • Will Falconer, DVM on August 23, 2021 at 5:32 am

            Excellent, Brenda! What state do you call home? Keep this vet, at all costs, and recommend him/her widely. We need more common sense vets like this who recognize long duration of immunity to rabies from early shots.

    • Marie on September 10, 2016 at 9:56 pm

      My pet had a wound room Em to doc and they asked for rabies certificate but it’s expired so they said to lock pet in a bedroom room for 6 months and only 1 person can go in and feed and water it. Or it gets put to sleep. Ridiculous

    • MsMoneypenny on July 19, 2017 at 9:19 pm

      I don’t let anybody go near my dog except for people we know well. NO kids.

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